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22 September 2006


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Bukovsky, a victim of torture by the KGB says: "Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists."

Bukovsky also speculates that Bush's use of torture may be because of his adolescent crush on Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent.


This article puts it's finger on the button when it says “if you know everything that surrounds that secret, the man you are interrogating is liable to relax and think you already have it and he will feel no constraint about giving you something you already have.”. Allmost everything I've read indicates that the U.S. doen't have that kind of detailed knowledge about either the resistance in Iraq or Al Queada. While I know I have no good idea of the state of American intellegence, the fact that there are reports coming out of "erroneous renditions" in Europe and Pakistani fruit vendors held at Guantanamo seems to indicate there's still difficulty identifying who is or isn't a terrorist. If they're having a hard time with the most basic question, I'm not confident they're able to assemble the kind of detailed dossier on operations the article discusses. Combine that lack of basic information with a relentless pressure to get results fromt the Administration, and it's easy to see how torture becomes an attractive option. Reminds me of a quote from the review of "The One Percent Doctrine"

"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."


Colonel, Mr. Sale,

I had the pleasure of hearing Hans Scharff speak to our platoon in Camp Pendleton (USMC)about his WWII years (during the mid-nineties). He was getting on in years, lived close by in L.A. and died a few years later. He received a standing ovation from our small group, after his talk and question-answer session. His book was required reading (among other requirements: training; screenings performance evals) before any neophyte would-be interrogator was sent to formal MOS school.

Alas, our field is no more; interrogators were aborbed into the Counterinteligence field (CI) shortly after I retired (1999). Scharff was critical of the Gestapo and CI types in the Heer, especialy as to their mental capabilities and wooden demeanors. I can only hope that my interrogator confreres did not forget to turn in their personalities at the company office prior to checking in at CI, (Typical anti-CI barb, of the kind which the Colonel has oft heard before).

Seriously, the field now does CI/Humint and operates with Human Exploitation Teams (HET)...As I did in the nineties) (kind of sounds white slavery-ish), in direct support of the trigger pullers. A Marine Intel Officer's letter is posted on Larry Johnson's NO QUARTER SITE - link http://noquarter.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/09/a_marine_in_ira.html#more

that addresses modern intel driven Ops in "the Anbar."

I might post more as more respondents pitch in, but remember, Scharff had a lot of information to put into his "we know all," and "file and dossier" gabfests. Nowadays with these open source type enemies, some harried interrogators are lucky to get the prisoners' circumstances of capture (from a doctrinal point of view, a minimal starting point).


This is what happens when faulty intelligence coupled with torture as the method for interrogation ensnares innocents. As the Canadian inquiry has determined there was no evidence linking this man to any terrorist activity - he was an innocent who was renditioned and tortured. Maybe he has received some measure of justice through exoneration but this story should provide caution to the acceptability of our governments behavior. Since none at Gitmo have been brought to a fair trial under court martial rules how do we know that other innocents have not been caught up in the dragnet? What does it say about our society that we are willing to tolerate such treatment of potential innocents and are only willing to try detainees in kangaroo courts?

I know the argument that Bush uses is that he can't be too careful in protecting American citizens from terrorists. Does that mean innocent people wrongly accused, tortured and detained for years without charge just become collateral damage?

I am glad that professionals believe that torture is not an effective strategy to elicit information from captured combatants or even those just picked up off the street as they had the wrong name.

Carl Osgood

I remember hearing about the German interrogators when I went through POW training in the Air Force in 1984. I couldn't tell you whether it was Schraff or not, but they were so good they even, at least once, let an American prisoner fly an FW190 fighter, knowing that he wouldn't take it England. And, they were right, he brought it back!


Fasteddiez brings up an interesting point regarding the 'asymmetry of knowledge' that exists.

We, in the developed world, have a bevy of info available to credit agencies, governments, employers, etc., but they have little. We exist in the information grid, and they do not.

There is an inherent inequality there. So, when they interrogate one of 'us', they can use pretexting (see the HP scandal) or pay $20 to some online agency and discover much, much, more than we realize.

When we interrogate them?



Interesting discussion but not, in my experience, very relevant to the ordinary world of interrogation. I was an interrogator in Vietnam for a year and then went on to ther things outside thea army. So my experience is not in the same league with some of your other commenters. But the thing I remember is how little we knew about the PWs. Practically the only information I recall getting was the results of earlier interrogations and some data about the place and time of capture. And this was at a national interrogation center in Saigon, not a field unit. Most of those guys couldn't even confirm the place of capture. The average guy in any army in any war knows almost nothing of any interest to anyone. Not even where he is at. ("We headed East and went where we were told.") On a day to day basis I think those are the ones who are likely to be on the receiving end of "aggressive" interrogation. We have hundreds of them for every Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

I would like to add a small bit of real life experience. My unit never beat on prosoners that I knew of, but we did pull them in from all over Vietnam. (In a desparate search for someone , anyone, who knew something, anything. We actually did fairly well reporting training, logistics, procedures etc. But not immediately combat-usefull kinds of data.) Anyway, I did wind up once in front of a guy who had been worked over pretty hard before he got us. He was completely worthless as a source. He was so focused on avoiding any more of that that he couldn't think about anything we asked. You want to know about nuclear weapons in Vietnam, he heard rumors that .... The key to an interrogation is to get the source talking and then steer the discussion. And he had no sponteneity left in him.

The army intelligence school training always asserted that the army did not use torture because it doesn't get you good information. We didn't really believe it and made jokes about it all the time. After dealing with this guy and thinking about it, I came to believe that they had told us the truth. I wish I could still believe that.


My experience at the other end of the chain in 1968-69 with a Bde. of the Cav parallels yours, Fred, which is good to know; it's something I've wondered about over the years.

Regrettably, "aggressive interrogation" occured, not always for information, but from frustration, as near as I could tell.

Dr. Peter Swartz

I am a clinical psychologist interested in understanding and using empathy to enhance data gathered in an interrogation. I have developed a curriculum designed to teach the use of empathy. It does not include the need to like or have sympathy for the subject. It does, as Col. Herrington stated: " ask myself, if I were in his place, how would I like to be treated?". The key is the ability to temporarily suspend one's own points of view in order to fully understand the subject, his points of view, and his experience--both in the moment and in general.
I would be interested to hear any feedback, and whether there is any interest in my curriculum on this subject.


If the senate voted in 2005 to make torture illegal, would the
memos authorizing torture be evidence of a criminal offense?

Here are two relevant facts and a statement by widely quoted
interrogation expert Col. Stuart A. Herrington.

10/5/05 - Forty-six Republicans joined 43 Democrats and one
independent in voting to define and limit interrogation
techniques that U.S. troops may use against terrorism suspects.
The measure bans the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading"
treatment of any prisoner in the hands of the United States.

10/5/07 - Leaked Justice Department memos reveal the
authorization (in 10/05) of the Central Intelligence Agency to
use its most extreme interrogation techniques, including extreme
cold, head slapping, sleep deprivation and simulated drowning
known as “water-boarding.”

10/14/07 - On the NPR program Fresh Air - Col. Stuart A. Herrington,
interrogation expert
(1965- present), "I am not surprised by the news since the
Administration was under pressure to protect intelligence
personnel who had been reassured their methods since 9/11 were
legal. I am disappointed because even after the ugly revelations
of misconduct by interrogators in early 2004, the administration
appears to remain bounded by a misguided and ill-informed belief
that brutal interrogation means are effective in spite
over-whelming feedback from professional interrogators that they
are not."

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